Enormous Los Angeles methane leak is equivalent to 5 million cows farting

Enormous Los Angeles methane leak is equivalent to 5 million cows farting

By Natalie Shoemaker Dec. 28, 2015 5:01 pm Aliso_Canyon_methane_leak

Here’s a story you may have missed over the holidays: An enormous methane gas leak in Los Angeles County has forced more than 2,000 residents from their homes in Porter Ranch, California. The underground natural gas storage field is estimated to be spewing between 44,000 to 55,000 kilograms per hour of methane — the equivalent of five million cows farting.

There are reports of residents experiencing headaches, nausea, and nosebleeds from this catastrophe. But the greatest toll this event could have is on our climate. The Environmental Defense Fund managed to capture footage earlier of the giant plumes escaping from the facility in Aliso Canyon using an infrared camera to make the methane visible.

The leak is being called one of the biggest ever reported. But what’s worse is efforts to contain the leak haven’t been successful. Gas gets everywhere, it’s not a substance that’s easy to contain, and methane is an important component in America’s natural gas infrastructure.

“When the gas comes up, it’s not like it’s in a neat, tidy stream that you can just sort of put a nuzzle over and capture,” Jason Marshall, from the California Department of Conservation, told NPR. “The earth has actually been pushed away by the gas coming up around the outside of the well.”

The cause of the leak is still unknown, but the EDF has indicated that more than 38 percent of the pipes in Southern California Gas Company’s territory are more than 50 years old. About 16 percent of the pipes in the territory are made from corrosive and leak-prone materials.

Efforts to contain the leak continue. Workers have decided to dig a relief well to intersect with the leak 8,500 feet below the source. However, this well won’t be completed until late February or March.

Even more devastating than the injury this leak has caused the local population, this methane is a potent climate change chemical — 25 times more than carbon dioxide. This incident may help spark an open conversation where we ask what the true costs of our natural gas infrastructures are.

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